What is Advent?

The Christmas season seemed to come early this year! Friends already had their decorations up in November, and people on social media continue to benevolently declare that it is now “OK” to break out the Christmas music (as if I really ever stop playing it. . . ).

Perhaps people are pushing back against the brokenness of the world; cyclical pandemic restrictions, heartbreaking headlines, daylight savings time. Whatever the reasons, Christmas is coming, and the Advent season is here.

I’m not talking about the new Lego City Advent collection or some numbered ornament system that serves as a sanctified excuse to eat daily chocolate (again, as if. . .)

Legos and chocolate aside, Advent is a church tradition counting down to the coming of Jesus at Christmas as well as His anticipated return–soon. Initial Advent practices, dating back to the early church in North Africa, found monks and faithful Christians fasting in anticipation of the season. Today, Advent activities include Scripture readings, wreaths with holly berries, and lighting of candles in the home and in the church–all pointing to a remembrance of Jesus’ first coming and an anticipation of His next coming.

As we look back at Jesus’ first coming, we see that at one time, many waited for His arrival with great expectation:

  • Mary: Here is this young woman waiting for the next season of her life, and the angel’s visit shocks her: “You won’t have to wait long, here comes a baby.” Luke 1:26-36
  • Simeon: This righteous, devout man was waiting, with the Holy Spirit on him, for the Consolation of Israel. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple, Simeon picked him up and said, “My wait is over!” Luke 2:22-38
  • Anna: At the same time Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, Anna was in the temple as she had been for decades, looking for the Messiah. Her expectation was fulfilled, and she began to tell everyone about the redemption coming from this baby. Luke 2:22-38
  • The People: When John the Baptist came on the scene, the people were waiting to see if he was the Christ, but John told them, “Just wait! He is coming!” Luke 3:1-18
  • John the Baptist: Even John was waiting for the redemption of the “One who is to come,” and during his imprisonment, sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really that One.” Luke 7:18-30

He came. Messiah came, lived a perfect life, died, was resurrected, and left His followers with instructions to tell everyone. And He promised to come again: Work for now, and wait–I’ll be back.

And as we wait for His return, I am thankful for the Scriptures which teach us both why and how we are to look for Jesus’ next Advent:

  • We wait confidently in the sure hope that Jesus’ redemption is complete and His glory is coming: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8
  • We wait actively in the midst of troubled times, reaching out to others to bring them to the hope of Jesus: But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude
  • We wait faithfully, living holy, gracious lives as befits the people of God redeemed by Jesus. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

How is the waiting going for you? How are you seeing the equipping of the Holy Spirit strengthening you today? May this Advent season build in you great delight in remembering Jesus’ first coming and a confident, active faithfulness as you wait for His next coming.

Looking for resources to meditate further on waiting well? Check out this post.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy Advent to you!

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